“Manifest” (10 p.m. Eastern Mondays on NBC) isn’t quite the “What does it all mean?” “Lost”-style mystery I thought it would be. Then again, it’s not exactly original, either. It’s just that the TV shows it reminds me of are different ones than I had assumed.
“American Vandal” proves it’s not a one-case wonder with the excellent Season 2 (Netflix), which again blends juvenile humor on the surface with a deeper layer of observations about human behavior. Whereas Season 1 explored who spray-painted penises on teachers’ cars at a California high school, Season 2 (again eight episodes, although it strikes me as brisker and more tightly crafted) finds teen investigative documentarians Peter (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam (Griffin Gluck) – plus a “Netflix” cameraman — traveling to Oregon to uncover the identity of the Turd Burglar.
The fall movie season arguably looks better than the summer season this year, with a nice mix of traditional fall films and a few scattered blockbusters – although a look at each film’s pedigree reveals this to still be the season of the auteur. Here are my picks for the top 10 movies to see:
Frustrated with “Scream” Season 3 being delayed indefinitely, I was excited to stumble across “Slasher” Season 2 (2017) on Netflix. Chiller’s Season 1 was strong, but Season 2 of Aaron Martin’s Canadian horror mystery series is better. It is gorier, with remarkably creative kill scenes, but it’s also a more compelling mystery that allows us to feel for – or be creeped out by — a lot of the characters.
“Sharp Objects” (9 p.m. Eastern Sundays on HBO) takes a familiar genre – a crime journalist investigating small-town murders – and turns it into a gilded-frame French painting. The miniseries is stacked with talent at the top of their respective games, but director Jean-Marc Vallee – who helmed last year’s “Big Little Lies” – is the one I’m most drawn to talk about. In a mere hour, he immerses us in the Southern charms and chills of Wind Gap, in the bootheel of Missouri, and the beauty and tragedy of our heroine, Camille.
Krysten Ritter – adorably quirky on “Veronica Mars,” “Gilmore Girls” and “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23” – shows the exact opposite side of her acting range in “Jessica Jones” Season 1 (2015, Netflix) as the titular self-loathing detective. This season doesn’t venture too far from fellow Netflix Marvel Cinematic Universe show “Daredevil”: It’s in Hell’s Kitchen, and it’s about someone with a tragic childhood and superpowers trying to stop a powerful evil man.
The idea of “summer movies” is already past its time, as “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War” prove that “summer” is now year-round in the movie business. Still, old habits die hard – such as my annual Summer Movie Preview post. Here are one blatantly obvious and nine not-so-obvious films on the summer schedule that I wouldn’t mind seeing:
After the often credulity-stretching “Obsidian Chamber” (2016), Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child get back on track with “City of Endless Night” (January, hardcover), their 17th Pendergast novel. As the evocative title suggests, the action takes place entirely in their favorite home stomping grounds, New York City, in the winter months when it gets dark early. It’s the most straightforward mystery they’ve penned in a while, although the string of murders are certainly grisly and bizarre enough to be worthy of FBI Agent Pendergast and NYPD detective D’Agosta.
“American Vandal” – an eight-episode fictional docu-mystery that dropped last fall on Netflix – explores the snicker-worthy case of someone spray-painting penises on 27 cars. And to be sure, creators Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda intend the straight-faced talk about “dicks” and “ball hairs” and “mushroom heads” to appeal to our inner juvenile comedian.
Television dropped two new murder mysteries this week, and both are worthy additions to the decade’s most popular genre worldwide. They’re quite different from each other, with “The Alienist” (9 p.m. Eastern Mondays, TNT) set in 1890s New York City and “Bellevue” (10 p.m. Eastern Tuesdays, WGN) set in present-day rural Ontario, although both have the hook of transgendered people being the victims, and both explore links between old and new cases. Both premiere episodes stand out from their brethren in different ways while conforming to the grim mood we’ve come to expect ever since “The Killing” premiered.